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First Thoughts: Drama in Florida

The Clinton-Meek drama doesn’t change the dynamics of a Senate race the GOP is poised to win… In fact, the story is a microcosm of the past couple of weeks -- plenty of sound and fury, but signifying little change in the overall environment… That said, the drama is just another example of how Dem plans to cut political deals have backfired… Economy grew at a 2% pace in 3rd quarter… Obama to discuss economy at 11:40 am ET, then to stump for Rep. Tom Perriello (D) at 7:35 pm ET… DSCC goes up in Alaska… David Vitter is bulletproof… Whitman calls to deport her ex-housekeeper/nanny… And Boxer up eight points in new Field Poll.

*** Drama in Florida: Just as we were noticing the lack of October surprises heading into Election Day came the news late yesterday that Bill Clinton tried to convince Kendrick Meek to quit Florida’s Senate race. The story produced plenty of drama: Meek defiantly said he was remaining in the contest and has since denied the conversation ever took place; RNC Chairman Michael Steele issued a statement wondering why Democrats were trying to get the African-American Meek out of the race (someone have his own re-election in mind?); and Marco Rubio’s campaign essentially blamed Charlie Crist for the whole story. The irony of all the drama? This three-way Senate race has been over for the past two months, with every poll showing Rubio in the 40s, Crist in the high 20s or low 30s, and Meek in third.

*** Full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing: This story, in fact, has been a microcosm of the past two weeks: plenty of sound and fury, but signifying little change from the overall dynamics of this election season -- that Republicans are poised for gains all across the country. Indeed, the Cook Political Report is now projecting that Republicans will net between 48 and 60 seats (with higher losses possible), while the always-cautious Rothenberg Political Report puts number between 55 and 65. Some Republican strategists privately believe it’s more possible for the GOP to pick up 70 seats than to have gains in JUST the 40s. But we have to ask: Can the Republicans really pick up 55 to 70 House seats and not win the Senate? It would actually be a remarkable feat if that were the case. What’s more off -- the predictions on the Dems holding the Senate or the predictions of the GOP picking up more than 55 seats?

*** Let’s (not) make a deal: Here’s one final point about yesterday’s Meek-Clinton news: While it doesn’t quite DIRECTLY link back to the White House, it’s just another example of how Democratic plans to cut political deals and play around in races have blown up in their faces -- publicly. Remember the effort to get Joe Sestak out of Pennsylvania’s Senate race? Or the plan to convince Andrew Romanoff not to challenge Michael Bennet’s in Colorado Senate contest? Then there was the White House’s inability to recruit (in Obama’s home state!) Lisa Madigan to run for the Senate. Even the ultimately successful effort to get New York Gov. David Paterson not to run turned into an uncomfortable story for Democrats. And it’s not just the Democrats; how many failed efforts were there by the NRCC and NRSC this year to help a preferred candidate? If there is one thing we know, it’s that this isn’t the year to try to be cutting political deals.

*** DSCC goes up in Alaska: Yet here is some good news for Democrats: Alaska’s Senate race is becoming more and more competitive for them. After a poll yesterday showed GOP nominee Joe Miller dropping to third place behind a write-in candidate (i.e., Lisa Murkowski) and Dem nominee Scott McAdams, First Read has learned that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is going up with some TV ads to hit Murkowski. By the way, here’s the calculus: With Miller in free fall, he’ll still hold on to 20-30% of the vote, and that leaves the other 70% to be split between McAdams and Murkowski. But don’t forget, even if “write-ins” top McAdams, quite a few ballots might end up being disqualified. Bottom line: Unlike just about every other race this year, there’s a real potential margin of error of say 2-3% when it comes to Murkowski’s potential vote total. Say it’s 37% write-ins, 34% McAdams and 29% Miller. Would it shock longtime recount specialists if the “write-in” total for Murwkoski ends up, say, closer to 34%?, Well, it’s recount city…

*** GDP, yeah you know me: In non-campaign news, the U.S. economy grew at a 2% pace in the third quarter. Tied to that news, President Obama will deliver remarks on the economy at 11:40 am ET from Beltsville, MD. In the evening, at 7:35 pm ET, he attends a rally in Charlottesville, VA for vulnerable freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D). Perriello’s GOP challenger, Robert Hurt, and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor hold a conference call at 10:45 am ET to pre-but the rally.

*** I. Am. Bulletproof: Maybe the most underreported story this midterm season? Let’s try how Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) -- despite his involvement in a prostitution ring -- is cruising to re-election. In a debate last night, Vitter’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Charlie Melancon, directly raised the prostitution story. Said Melancon, per the New Orleans Times-Picayune: “You've sinned, you've lied, you've broken the law, you've embarrassed the state --- yet you've not hinted once that you think you should step down.” More from the paper: “Vitter refused to go beyond his earlier statements about the D.C. Madam and said he believes he has been forgiven by his family and ‘my God.’ He said the voters he has encountered at town hall meetings are willing to look beyond his indiscretions, and suggested that it's only the media and "political hacks" who continue to dwell on the topic.”

*** Whitman goes all in? The L.A. Times reports that California gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman (R) -- who is trailing Democrat Jerry Brown -- has begun to appeal to conservative audiences to fire up her base. The latest example: She appeared on FOX last night arguing that her ex-housekeeper/nanny should be deported. “Until now she has declined to comment on whether the former housekeeper should be deported. But Wednesday, in an interview with Greta Van Susteren, Whitman answered the question head on. ‘Well, the answer is it breaks my heart, but she should be deported because she forged documents and she lied about her immigration status,’ Whitman said. ‘And it breaks my heart. Gloria Allred pulled off a political stunt. And you know what? On Nov. 3, no one's going to care about Nicky Diaz. But the law is the law and we live in the rule of law. It's important.’”

*** Boxer still ahead: And staying with California, a new Field Poll shows Barbara Boxer (D) leading Carly Fiorina by eight points among likely voters in the state’s Senate contest, 49%-41%.

Countdown to Election Day 2010: 4 days

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